Gibsons, B.C.: The Howe Sound Pulp and Paper Mill has long been the economic backbone of Port Mellon, B.C., but new federal funding to scale up the plant’s biomass production will soon have it fueling more than just the community’s economy.
More than 10,654 homes on Canada’s west coast will be powered by renewable energy harvested from the mill thanks to a $36.7-million investment from Natural Resources Canada’s Pulp and Paper Green Transformation Program.
Howe Sound Pulp and Paper will use that money to upgrade its boiler so that it can operate entirely on biomass-based energy. On top of slashing its yearly greenhouse gas emissions by 12,000 tons, the plant will produce more than 127,000 MW of annual surplus renewable energy that it will sell to BC Hydro.
Al Strang, the plant’s technical and environment manager, says they could start selling an average of 35 MW as early as October 2010. The final upgrades ― adding an economizer and converting the boiler to a bubbling fluidized bed ― are expected to wrap up by June 2011. The retrofits could also translate into several more jobs in operations, he says.
“This is a complete transformation of our business model,” Strang says, adding his advice to other companies thinking about doing the same thing is “to look outside of the box and beyond your traditional business.”
The mill is one of 24 pulp and paper companies that qualified for credits under the $1-billion federal program geared at improving the sector’s environmental footprint and competitive advantage through the diversification of products.
Pulp and paper companies can also take advantage of BC Hydro’s Integrated Power Offer, which the corporation plans to expand to other industries down the line.
With industrial customers accounting for two-thirds of the province’s electricity use, BC Hydro Spokesperson Susan Danard says, “we’re increasingly looking at larger companies, whether those are mines, manufacturing facilities, or pulp and paper mills.”